Every day I hear the same mantra from real estate agents and builders: Now is the time to buy a house.
But is that really the case? It depends on your intentions.
Agents say it's a good time to buy if you plan on staying in the home for at least three to five years. That's how long most industry experts I've talked to say it will take the housing market to fully rebound if not longer. So flippers hoping to make a quick buck with a quick turnaround sale are out of luck. Even if the market is finally starting to level off, which is the latest buzz among agents, most still expect prices to drop further this year.
But if you're a home buyer or investor in it for the long haul, this down market presents a lot of opportunities.
First off, there's a massive selection of homes for sale both new and used. The ball is in the buyer's court. Builders are offering discounts, sellers are offering to pay closing costs, foreclosure properties can be snapped up on the cheap and so on.
Interest rates are also still low. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan is currently 5.95 percent, according to a weekly survey by Bankrate.com. That's actually lower than the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, which is at 6.16 percent. ARMs typically have lower rates. But with the mortgage market in upheaval, investors buying the loans are demanding higher returns, making the loans more expensive for borrowers.
Of course, selling is easier said than done for most current homeowners who may want to move up to a bigger house. Competition is heavy and homes are staying on the market for a year or more in some cases.
But for first-time buyers or investors who don't have homes to sell before buying another, now may just be the time to act if they're smart about it.